Milwaukee City Hall Exterior Restoration
Award Type: Honor Award
Completed in 1896, Milwaukee’s City Hall has been a distinctive and iconic part of the city’s skyline for more than a century. Constructed in the German Renaissance Revival style using granite, sandstone, pressed brick and terra cotta, the building’s graceful gables and baroque ornamentation proudly embody the city’s unique cultural heritage. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2005, City Hall had been battered by a century of weathering, hard use and insensitive alterations when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced plans for an ambitious, historically-accurate exterior renovation project.
Behind 75 miles of scaffolding, City Hall’s signature tower was completely dismantled and rebuilt, and expanses of damaged brick, terra cotta and metal were replaced. In addition to more than 1,900 windows that were upgraded, the project included the replacement of two spires and the building’s copper roof. Near identical replications of terra cotta sculptures on the building were created to replace those that had deteriorated.
The scope of the project extended beyond its walls. Determined that the restoration should benefit the local work force, the City launched an ambitious apprenticeship and on-site training program, which created 2,500 jobs and provided a welcome economic boost. After three years of scaffolding and nearly $66 million, the project was completed in December of 2008.
“The Milwaukee City Hall building is not only one of the most beautiful municipal buildings in America, it is also one of the buildings most closely associated with the city’s heritage,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “In restoring City Hall, Milwaukee officials made a powerful statement about their commitment to the history and character of downtown Milwaukee.”